COVID-19: Relationship with employees in wake of the new ministerial resolution explained
As a general rule, Federal Law. No. 8 of 1980 regarding the regulation of labour relations continues to be applied by the court (even with respect to the precautionary measures and circumstances related to coronavirus) where the court will rely on the employment contract provisions unless these provisions of the contract are amended by the parties concerned.
This means termination, salary deductions or salary deprivation should be justified by the employer and the court has the power to verify the seriousness of the justification based on documents.
Else, these actions would be taken as arbitrary dismissal, against the Labour Law which obliges the employer to compensate the employee.
Ministerial Decision No. 279 of 2020 issued on March 26 concerns employment stability in private sector enterprises during the period of the application of precautionary measures to reduce the spread of the new coronavirus regulates the employment relationship between the employer and employee.
In the wake of the pandemic situation, Clause 1 of the decision emphasises on the “mutual agreement between the two parties of the employment contract in order to preserve the interests of both parties during the period of applying precautionary measures to limit the spread of the new coronavirus”.
This is emphasised in Clauses 5 and 6 of the mentioned decision where the affected establishments wishing to reduce a worker’s wages temporarily during the aforementioned period must provide an additional temporary attachment to the employment contract (annexure) between the two parties, provided that it ends with term or the period of validity of the decision, whichever is earlier.
This annexure can also be renewed by mutual agreement. The annexure shall be issued in two copies with each party in possession of one copy, and the employer shall provide it to the ministry whenever requested to do so. As for the establishments that wishes to reduce the worker’s wages permanently, they shall submit an amendment of the work contract data to obtain the approval of the ministry in accordance with the procedures.
Clause 2 of this decision regulates the procedures that can be taken by the employer after a mutual agreement with the employee. It states that “the establishments affected by the precautionary measures referred to and wish to reorganise their work, should include their procedures in agreement with the employee according to the following:
1- Application of the remote work system
2- Grant paid vacation
3- Grant leave without pay
4- Reduce wages temporarily during the period referred to
5- Reduce wages permanently
Ministerial Decision No. 279 of 2020 ensures interests of both parties. Clause 3 of the mentioned decision states that “affected establishments shall adhere to the precautionary procedures referred to, in which there is a surplus in preparing the workers who are authorised to work with them, recording their data in the virtual labour market system to require them to recycle according to the need by other facilities, provided that their commitment to these workers remains in terms of housing and fulfills all their entitlements except for salary, until they leave the country or authorise them to work in another facility” .
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Limited time only
Ministerial Decision No. 279 of 2020 is applicable only in the case of the coronavirus situation.
Finally, in compliance with the law and based on the doctrinal principle of “no prejudice caused and no harm inflicted”, we advise the employer and employee to amend the provisions of the employment contract and agree on the articles that preserve and suit the interests of both of them.